Horror Book Review – Necropolis Rising (Dave Jeffery)

Necropolis Rising is a zombie horror novel by acclaimed British author Dave Jeffery. It is the first in a series of 3 books that went on to become UK Number 1 Best Sellers. Dave Jeffery has released over 14 novels with many different publishers though Necropolis Rising was released through Severed Press. He is also a screenwriter for multi award winning VLM Productions and another of his stories, Finding Jericho is being adapted for stage. Dave lives in Worcestershire with his family and Necropolis Rising is also set in the UK, mainly on the streets in and around Birmingham.

Necropolis Rising

“It took thirty minutes for the city to die. But their hunger would last forever. The military has sealed the city. No one is getting in. No one is getting out. But a team of cyber-criminals have a job to do. A job that will see them receiving a huge payout if they succeed. Or a bullet if they don’t. Once inside the city staying alive proves to be just as difficult as staying dead”.

So, obviously Necropolis Rising is a book about zombies and we all know how many of those exist in the world of horror fiction. More importantly, we also know there are way more boring, generic ones then there are fresh and exciting ones. It isn’t always the mundane, same old, rehashing though. There have been some stand out stories over the years like World War Z, Warm Bodies and The Scattered and the Dead.

So where does Necropolis Rising fit in? Well, let me tell you a little about it first before deciding. Firstly, it is a short story in my opinion. I have purchased and read the Kindle edition and that only weighs in at 156 pages which isn’t huge. Maybe it just seems small as my previous two books were the epic and excellent The Fireman and NOS4R2 by Joe Hill.

  As I said, Necropolis Rising is set in the UK, and specifically in and around the city of Birmingham. For me, that is great as it gives the story a sense of realism in the names of locations that are familiar to me. It follows the paths of many different people at first though, as the tag line suggests the story is set around a group of cyber criminals.

It doesn’t always feel like that. They don’t seem to get too much extra page time than other characters. As the story progresses, another character also takes center stage who appears to be more pivotal. So we have a collection of different groups and people, whose stories are progressed chapter by chapter. You get the feeling as you read that they may be progressing towards intertwining as well and you would be close to accurate with that.

The story starts at the Hilton Towers in Birmingham where two seemingly normal guys are trying to gain entrance. We soon learn that they are up to no good, or well, maybe attempting to do some good but ultimately failing. See these guys are planning to attack and kill someone who works from a laboratory in the penthouse of the hotel. The man is described as a monster and it is suggested he is performing inhumane experiments from there. These guys, Sean and Sam, plan to put a stop to it once and for all.

The devilish man is named as Dr Richard Whittington. Upon arriving, Sean and Sam find that not only has the penthouse been converted into a high security laboratory but also that the door is open. They find the doctor though. He is busy with a meal. Sickeningly, that meal just happens to be a still breathing, still whimpering golden retriever. The little section here is quite vividly and horrifically described with lines such as “”it’s bowels and lower intestines swinging in the doctors mouth”. Nicely done Mr Jeffery. Chaos ensues resulting in the deaths of everyone in the room and the destruction of the room itself but, as it is so nicely put in the book, for the city below, it was already too late.

This introductory chapter was very much giving us the catalyst for the spread of the virus/infection or whatever it is and the story now moves sideways to another part of the city. First we meet the stories main protagonists. We join 4 people in a room holding a briefing on a job, a crime, they are about to commit. We meet head honcho Kevin O’Connell and Stu Kanaka. Soon wee also learn the two are closely tied through having served in the Special Forces together. We meet Amir Singh and finally Gaz Clarke.

Necropolis Rising

Details on the job are given out here too. We learn that the assembled team have been tasked with implanting a virus and a piggy back program at the National Criminal Intelligence DNA Database, in Birmingham thus protecting the identity of multiple crime families. Simultaneously the piggy back program will allow for undetected manipulation of the results within the database.We also learn that the team have been tasked with doing this job by a group known as The Consortium. We learn little else about this group throughout the story other than that they are a leading criminal council. When you take a job for them you succeed and get paid well, or fail and lose your life. Essentially making failure not an option.

At the last second, a fifth member of the group, Suzie, bursts into the room and informs the team that they have a problem, Birmingham is on lock down.

We skip to a few other parts of the city now, to get a first hand glimpse of the infection spreading. First wee meet an old university pervert, George Mitchell, who abuses his position of power. We get to read, in explicit detail, as he gets his face eaten off by his young receptionist. An object of his desires for many years. Then there is Doyle, busy shooting zombies in his video game when art becomes real life without the ability to load a saved game and try again.

While the city collapses we meet more characters and learn more about some we have already been introduced to. We meet Colonel Mark Carpenter who is heading up a rapid response unit where we learn that Dr Whittington was working outside his brief and on bio weapons. We meet Major Edward Shipman, a lifelong military man and key component of the story. The rapid response unit and intelligence around it learn that the experiment is called the Lazarus Initiative and learn basically, that it is creating zombies.

We also learn a bit more about Suzie and Kevin who are much more than criminal colleagues. They have a deep and interesting back story that I really enjoyed and that the author has described delicately and with depth.

More characters join the story. Crispin Miller is a particularly disturbing one. A skilled sculptor, who operates a funeral home, Crispin dedicated his time to sculpting the dead to make them suitable for viewing at funerals. Crispin is disconnected and deranged though. He is slightly fascinated with death and keeps a currently dead corpse as a girlfriend. I wonder how that will end.

Finally, we meet one more absolutely vital character. Thom Everett. Thom Everett is potentially the only person in Birmingham immune to the virus. He was involved in the experiments, as a guinea pig. We know he has come into contact with the infection. He just  never suffered from any of the terrible effects. Shipman and an elite unit are tasked with entering the city to retrieve him. This is where the story really comes into it’s own.

We have O’Connell and his team of ex military criminals heading into the city to complete their job. Simultaneously we have a military team entering the city to retrieve Everett. All while the city’s dead are rising in increasing numbers. Importantly, Thom Everett is soon found to have actually suffered an effect after all. He appears to be mentally tethered, both ways, to the zombies who are attracted to him like a magnet.

All this leads to a huge showdown which involves every team converging on Thom Everett’s location, including the zombies. With betrayal around every corner, an unlikely union and time slipping away, can Thom be brought to safety before it is too late for us all?

Well, you will have to read the story to find out.

Dave Jeffery’s Necropolis Rising is a good, interesting story. It’s strongest point for me is the depth of the key characters. Particularly O’Connell and Suzie. Despite their slightly immoral reasons for entering the city, they are the ones I ended up rooting for. The author has done a stand out job of giving the majority of the characters layers of depth to make you care about them. That is important for a story and has great effect, especially when the author seems willing to kill a character off at any given moment.

Necropolis Rising

That amount of quick and brutal death leaves you feeling tense whenever a set of characters enter a troublesome situation as there is no guarantee they all will survive it. All of that makes for an exciting story. In the realms of zombie stories, it seems to be taking a new slant. That comes mainly in the accidental skills of Thom Everett. It is a good idea. I imagine it is one that thrilled readers of this story when it was released in 2014 but unfortunately it didn’t have the same impact on me.

The reason? Z Nation, the TV series from SyFy. Almost exactly 1 month after this book was released, SyFy debuted a zombie television series with a difference. That series involved a person who was forced to undertake bio weapon experiments to help with creating a cure for the zombie virus. It left him with a mental and emotional connection to zombies. The zombies wouldn’t hurt him, instead appearing to see him as some sort of leader. He is sought by a rag tag collection of ex military and criminal men and women. They find and protect him as they attempt to bring him to a place where a cure can be made.

The similarities are strong. Seeing as I watched it years before reading this, it made the story less of a new idea to me. It is important to note here that I am not claiming anyone copied anyone else here. It is also more important to note that Necropolis Rising was first anyway.

What you do get in Necropolis Rising is a strong story, with good characters and an interesting plot that hooks you in more than enough to make you want to read on and see what happens next. There is plenty of well described oozing horror too. It comes in the form of extreme gore, unexpected death and sickening human actions. As for the next book, well I plan to be getting hold of that immediately.

To pick up a copy of Necropolis Rising visit Amazon or the authors own website. You can pick up digital or physical copies, or both. Check out Dave Jeffery at his website, Facebook or Twitter for more information on him and his other stories too.

Necropolis Rising
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